A few years ago Strut Records issued a great series of records, called Inspiration Information. It featured a number of experimental collaborations between, for instance, Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics and Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen. You should definitely check those records out, yet I am not going to review them for you here. However, I recently had to think of this series.
A few weeks ago the programme directors of the BA ES, Esther Versluis and Arjan Schakel, asked me whether I would be willing to do an 'inspiring' and 'informative' (yes) Problem-Based Learning (PBL) simulation during Maastricht University's BA Open Day on 12 November. I more or less said 'yes' straightaway - they are very persuasive - despite not really knowing what was expected from me.
I knew that the current video on our website only shows part of what PBL actually entails. Beyond that, I was told that I could put forward a list of current 1st and 2nd year students whom I would like to do the simulation with. Additional information on what was expected from the students and me came just a few days before the 12th: a short presentation and a simulation of a group meeting. In 30 minutes...
Maastricht University prides itself on its use of PBL, but it is something very difficult to simulate in an inspiring and informative way in 30 minutes. Tutorials usually last about two hours, based on the so-called seven jump that actually extends from one session to the next. Preparation also entails quite a lot of reading, depending on the assignment.
This is where another one of the aforementioned words came in, namely 'experimental'. I sat down for a drink and a discussion with Arjan and we eventually devised a number of basic background slides, as well as four slides with an actual BA ES assignment that would be used to simulate four PBL situations:
This may all sound very organised, but the experiment continued as the seven students that were going to help me out - Astrid, Elisa, Jeanine, Justine, Lukas, Nicole and Sophie - only found out what we are going to do on the day itself. But guess what? They did an excellent job! And while some tweaking is still needed, the three sessions were considered inspirational and informative and prospective students and their parents asked very relevant questions.
To come back to Strut Record's series; an experimental setting can stimulate inspirational and informative collaboration. Something that we too often tend to forget; something that we may want to cultivate more in our teaching. In fact, Astrid, Elisa, Jeanine, Justine, Lukas, Nicole and Sophie did so well that we even nearly became trending topic on twitter! Nearly.
If you are interested in finding out more about PBL in European Studies, check out this chapter by my colleagues Heidi Maurer and Christine Neuhold:
Maurer, H., & Neuhold, C. (2014). Problem-based learning in European Studies. In S. Baroncelli, R. Farneti, I. Horga & S. Vanhoonacker (Eds.), Teaching and learning the European Union. Traditional and innovative methods (pp. 199-215). Dordrecht: Springer.